Very Specific Interviews: Tiny Napkins
It's Ojai, it's the mid-'90s, you're not quite 16...
We recommend listening. But if you prefer to read, here is this. It is pretty good but not dead perfect.
CONTENT NOTE: This story describes a relationship between a teenage girl and an adult man. It is very explicit. If this is triggering for you, don’t listen. Children should not listen. If you’re still with me, welcome.
Sarah: Hello. This is Sarah Miller and welcome to Very Specific Interviews where we ask people about very specific things. And today we are here with my friend and colleague Amy Westervelt. Amy and I both live in Nevada County, which is, like … not that many people here ... like if you meet someone here who's like in like the media world. Yeah. You're like, “Oh my God. Yeah. You're like, really excited.
Amy: We can talk shop.
Sarah: We can yeah we can like gossip. Yeah. No one will ever gossip with me ever. Like I try to gossip with my boyfriend and he's like …
Amy: “I don't care about that Sarah!”
Sarah: “I don’t care!” But Amy cares.
Amy: I do. Yeah.
Sarah: And I care about everything Amy says and I especially really care about the story that we're going to get into today, which Amy had told me once, like two years ago. And then I forgot. And then she told me again. And I got to admit that I'm a terrible person. And I laughed my ass off.
Amy: You know, you're not terrible. I think it's a funny story. But most people are like (GASPS.)
Sarah: Yeah, but I think it's funny. Um, so, you know, there's things about it that are not funny, but those are not the things that I think about when I think about this story. OK, so let's begin at the beginning. It's 1994, 1995 ish. You are in high school. You are like fifteen, sixteen. And you are living in Ojai, is that correct?
Amy: Yeah, yes, I was living in Ojai.
Sarah: You're living in Ojai. And tell me, what's Ojai like in 1995 and like what's your life like in Ojai?
Amy: Yes. So Ojai is like kind of a little hippie town in Southern California, but it's also like where all of the Hollywood people have second homes. So it's like this weird mix of, you know, hippies and then like very rich people and and all of the people who serve them. It's it's like very, very segregated. And and for me, it was I don't know. I mean, it's like very it was like very boring and safe. Like, our big excitement was smoking clove cigarettes and like, you know, sneaking out to concerts and shit like that.
Sarah: I'm picturing you smoking clove cigarettes in an orange grove. Is that…
Amy: Yes. Yes. A lot of oranges in Ojai.
Sarah: Yes. That's the image that I'm getting.
Amy: Nope, that's it. But it was like clove cigarettes and a little bit of weed in an orange grove. Yeah.
Sarah: And you were like a math prodigy --
Amy: I was weirdly good at math. Yeah. Now I'm like I can barely do it.
Sarah: Didn’t you get like a scholarship to go to private school because you were good at math?
Amy: I did, yes. I got a math and science scholarship to a private Catholic high school, so I got to go there for free. Lucky me.
Sarah: That's adorable. Yeah. So your mom is like forty-five or something like that and she is working in a travel agency… RIP travel agencies!
Amy: Yeah, my mom is a travel agent with giant glasses and really poofy hair and like enormous shoulder pads.
Sarah: In Ojai?
Amy: At that point she was working in Ventura. It was the larger agency, so.
Sarah: OK, yeah. So your mother's working in a travel agency. And who else is working in this travel agency, Amy?
Amy: So my mother's working in this travel agency that's owned by this woman who was also kind of like this like brassy, like 1980s professional woman…and her, like both of her kids, also worked for the travel agency. And my mom was always kind of like, oh, these kids like they're nice, but like, why can't they get jobs outside of their mom's travel agency? And one of them was this woman's son, who was a former professional surfer and model. And my mom was like very swoony about him. She was like, he's just so good looking … a lot.
Sarah: This guy sounds like he was objectively good looking…like not that many
Amy: He was like objectively attractive…
Sarah: Like Robert Redford’s not the kind of person that people are going to argue about being good looking.
Amy: Right. Right. Yes. And his thing for his mom’s travel agency was these guided surf tours. So like he would sort of like be there sometimes and off sometimes. And then a lot of times he would like come in the office with his shirt off. And my mom was like, “Ohhhhhh.” At the time, I was like, aren’t you a little old for him? But then but he was actually only like 10 years younger than her.
Sarah: Right. Your mom is like the same age I was when I met my boyfriend, and he was the same age that my boyfriend was. But did he want to go out with your mom, Amy?
Sarah: Who did he want to go out with?
Amy: He had a big crush on the Aimster. Yeah.
Sarah: OK, so he put… here's the amazing… here's the amazing fact, the fulcrum on which this story rests, which is what did he do?
Amy: He met me. I was like I was probably 14 when he met me at like a mixer? for the travel agency? And he said something to my mom about, like, how pretty I was or whatever. And my mom, like, took it as a compliment to her. And then but then later on, I was like, occasionally I would do little chores and stuff for his mom, who he also lived with. By the way, this man was like in his 30s, lived with his mother, worked for her. I think his grandma also lived there. Anyway, one time I went to their house and I saw that he had marked on a calendar my birthday.
Sarah: So you were at the house and you're just like, “Doot de doo, I’m just going to, like, clip the hydrangea bushes for two dollars an hour.” You're just like in your mom's boss's kitchen being like, “I'm going to go get myself a Fresca because I'm tired from clipping the hydrangeas.”
Amy: I was going to go get a Fresca, yes.
Sarah: And somehow you see… was it in his bedroom. Where was it?
Amy: It was like on it was like on in a stack of things. It was like on the kitchen counter. And I asked him about it. I was like, is this a joke? And he was like, “Yeah, totally. I mean, well kind of.” Like but he was very hot and I was very young. I think part of me was sort of flattered by the fact he's made all these comments over the years since I was 14. At this point, I'm like, you know, I'm about to turn 16 and like so I'm like, oh, he actually really likes me!
Sarah: So you're in his kitchen, you see your birthday on the calendar… and your reaction is like … to be flattered?
Amy: Yeah. Yes.
Sarah: Did you tell your mom?
Amy: I didn't tell her about the calendar thing,
Sarah: Lke on purpose, you didn't tell her?
Amy: Yeah, because I just wasn't sure, you know, sort of how she would react to that. But then we went to the mall together as, as you did in the 90s. My mom and I did. And like I was trying to think of some way to sort of casually bring it up to her because I was like, you know, if he asked me out, is she going to let me go out with him? Probably not, because he's older, you know, like, I need to feel this out. Right. So I asked her. “I'm like, I feel like BEEEEEEEEEPPP CENSOR REDACTED is going to ask me out.” You know, and I was like, but that's probably weird, right, because he's so much older and then and my mom said the weirdest thing ever to me, which was, “Well, you have to start somewhere.” Only in like years later, I was like, what a fucking weird thing to say to your teenage daughter, about like a 30 something year old guy who's like, you know, pursuing her romantically.
Sarah: I can't even imagine telling my parents, like my parents would not have said that? Do you think that there's something is there something about like your mom's upbringing or her own relationship with her mother or with like, men that is like, more twisted than most people?
Amy: Yes, I mean, my mom so my mom had a weird childhood where, like, her mom didn't want to have any more kids, and then her dad convinced her mom to have one more because he wanted a boy. And then she had my mom and she basically went to bed for like ten years and said in front of my mom and my mom, like, has repeated this to me many times in my life, that that her mother said this to her dad in front of her, “You wanted her, you raise her.” So I think my mom has definitely like has this weird hero worship thing with men and then also has like a raging narcissist where it's like she's really she's super, super superficial and really into looks. So I think it was like this weird thing where it was like the only thing that mattered was that he was super hot.
Sarah: He was like 32 or 30. He was like, whatever. Not that it matters.
Amy: I mean, he's in his thirties.
Sarah: Yeah. So you think it it felt like a thirty two year old man who was not super attractive and wanted to go out with you, she would have been like, that's disgusting.
Amy: Yes, 100 percent. Yes. My mom actually once got mad at me when I was …I was a sophomore, around the same time. She actually got mad at me that same year for going to prom with my friend's brother. We just went as friends because, like, he didn't have a date. He was very unattractive and she was, like, mad at me for going to prom with him because he was ugly. Yeah.
Sarah: Oh, my God. That is so unbelievably insane. So you're 16 and this guy wants to go out with you. So do you guys go out?
Amy: Yes. So he… I turned 16. Actually … he didn't have a driver's license because he had lost his license because he'd gotten so many DUIs.
Sarah: Did your mom know this?
Amy: I don't know if my mom knew this or not. But she definitely knew that he had had a lot of issues with drugs and alcohol and like, you know, all of that stuff.
Sarah: But he was hot and she was like whatever.
Amy: But he lived with his mother, and he worked for his mother! And I mean, there were a lot of red flags here, but he was like hot enough to make up for all of it. But she … so I turned 16. I had like inherited my grandfather's car, which was like an old El Camino. And so, like, I got my license like pretty quickly after I turned 16 and whatever. And he was like, we should go out and celebrate your birthday because you have a car now. Right. And I was like I was … again, I'm still thinking like, yeah, he's hot, you know, I'm like, yeah, OK, let's do it. His plan for the day and this is again, keep in mind, this is for like to celebrate my 16th birthday. He's like, let's go to the drive in. And I was like, OK. And so we go to the drive in. And he was like, “Here's 20 bucks for the snack bar.” So I went, you know, to the snack bar. And again, I'm like very much still a kid. So I'm like, “WHOOOO twenty bucks for for movie candy, chaching” you know? And I ate like a shitload of popcorn candy. I was like this is great, happy birthday to me. And at a certain point, like, he just sort of like leans over and like kisses me and then we start making out and whatever, and he totally does like this this move the like….mrrrrrrr… And like pulls my head towards his dick, which is like out by this point .. I had never even like I had never given a blowjob before. And I was like, I was like, I mean and I said this, I was like, “I don't really know what I'm doing here, but like OK.” And then and he's like, “It's fine, I'll help you.” Yes. And then I mean I mean, I just have to say it, straightforwardly. He had a pretty big dick and I has just eaten a lot of candy. So like, you know, it was like a couple bobs and then I just barfed all over him. Like, I have this vivid memory of him sitting in on the like velour bench seat of my El Camino with like tiny little like movie theater napkins, like mopping vomit off his dick. It's so funny, and then I was just and then I said I actually said this at the time, which I'm very proud of today. I said, “Whew, sweet 16, huh!”
Sarah: “Do these napkins make my dick look big?” Oh, my God. Oh, my God. So did he want to go out with you again?
Amy: Oh, yes, very much so, yes. We kept going like we basically started dating. We had this like…this date that ended, like we ended up being at his mom's house and we're like in his room making out and we like almost … I mean, like we we had, like, just the tip just to see how it feels kind of sexy, you know, or he was like like I was still a virgin at that point. And he was like, “This isn't like as close as it gets without, like, fully doing it.” And then his grandma walked in. Yes, she was like she was like full blown dementia by that point. And she was like “What are you doing?”
Sarah: “It’s just the tip, grandma.”
Amy: Yeah, and so then that was the moment where I don't know why, I think because it was his grandma and I was like, he's like still living in his mom's house, whatever. It's just like all sort of clicked for me. And like, as I was leaving, I was like, I really don't think we should see each other anymore. And he was like, “Why?” And I was like, “I mean, don't you think it's weird that you're like in your 30s and I'm 16?”
Sarah: “Don't you think it's weird that, like, your grandmother, almost saw you, almost deflowering me?”
Amy: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And then so then we broke up. And I had like left town, but my mom had my car still. And so she would like occasionally drive my car and every, like, every time she would go somewhere in Ventura, she would come back and there would be a note from him on it that was like, “Hey, if you're in town, give me a call, blah, blah, blah.” Like he eventually married someone who was also like I mean, same age difference. Like, you know, I think she was like 22 by that point and he was like 36. 37. Yeah. Now he's a dad.
Sarah: And that is the end of our story. He's now he's a dad, so he's OK. And he's probably like, “No one's going to touch my, go out with my, little girl.”
Amy: I know… I wonder if he’s like, one of those dads.
Sarah: I really. Oh, my God. We should, like, look him up on Facebook. I'm sure he's like the biggest fucking like, ‘My daughter's my princess’ kind of fucking piece of shit ever. Well, Amy, the take away that I have from the story is that you must have been really hot. I’m just kidding.
Amy: I was I was really hot. And my mom is a real piece of shit.
Sarah: Your mom is really weird!
Amy: I mean, the whole reason I started to talk to you about it recently was because people were talking about that the Philip Roth biographer, who had like, groomed his students. And I was like… a guy did that to me. But like, I don't know. I also I'm like, I don't know. I feel like I figured it out pretty quickly, and was like, this is weird. And so are you…
Sarah: Right? I mean, also I mean, it is really, really fucked up. I think there's a way in which, like when someone is your teacher and they're manipulating you around, like your intelligence, is like really, really fucked up?
Amy: Or like, your boss…
Sarah: It reminded me of things that had happened to me like that, that weren't that didn't go that far. But like … realizing that somebody is just pretending or doesn't give a shit about your intellect because they…
Amy: Yes. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.. So this guy … he just pretty transparently wanted to bone a 16 year old.
Sarah: And if you'd been like I'm way better at math than you are, he'd be like, “You are. It's true.”
Amy: “That is true. Yes. Can you just drive me to the store now.”
Sarah: So that was Amy Westervelt, who is a climate writer, and she produces the podcast Drilled, which is about the oil industry and what wonderful people they are. Just kidding. Very Specific Interviews is produced by me, Sarah Miller, and edited by Erica Heilman. Music is by Chuck Lindo, the graphics are by Rebecca Ackermann. This show is produced for my Substack, The Real Sarah Miller, you can find me at firstname.lastname@example.org, while you’re there, sign up, give me money if you want to, I won’t turn it down. And tell your friends about the show. This was Very Specific Interviews, I’m Sarah Miller, thanks for listening.